Thursday, 24 September 2015

Tube Strikes: not too much, not too little

I guess most people are unaware of the fact that transport workers have worked round the clock for many many years. When transport services stop, teams of workers start maintenance work checking tracks and signals and doing everything necessary to ensure that a few hours later when services start again the network will be safe to operate and transport millions of passengers across London.

The conflict now is about increasing the number of hours when trains are driven across the network. Forcefully, working conditions will change and this will mean that eventually there is going to be less time available to maintain the network and that those in charge of doing repairs will be under increasing pressure when doing jobs that are absolutely necessary to ensure that the network is safe to run.

Of course Mayor Boris Johnson wants to change working patterns. He has in his mind the idea of getting rid of all tube drivers replacing them with robots and computers. This has serious implications. On the one hand, theoretically, services will be extended and more people will travel. In practice, the chances of breakdowns occurring will increase and the time available to deal with breakdowns will be reduced.

One fundamental issue affects Underground Services: lack of space. This is why we have now railway services, bus services, underground services and so called overground services complementing each other to increase capacity and transport alternatives within the little space available.

The situation we face is not about workers being unreasonable. It is about having a safe and sustainable network. Most people should know by now that certain branches of the service would be under water had not been for constant pumping. The tunnels are old and without proper maintenance that can only be done when services are not running the network would eventually come to a halt not because of strikes but because of critical physical damages.

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